The Best Turkey Brine Recipe – A simple blend of salt, sugar, and spices to create the most moist and flavorful turkey you’ve ever made!
Every year around this time I get questions about turkey brining. You ask…
- Should I brine my Thanksgiving turkey?
- Does brining really make that much of a difference? What does it do to the turkey?
- How do you make a turkey brine?
- How long should I brine a turkey before cooking?
- What’s the easiest and cleanest way to brine a turkey?
- Does the turkey need any seasoning after brining?
- Can I take the turkey straight out of the brine and put it in the oven?
- What happens if you brine a turkey too long?
As you can see, it’s high time I wrote a post about turkey brine.
Today I will try to answer all these questions as thoroughly as I can, so this year you can serve the plumpest, most flavorful turkey you’ve ever roasted.
Should I Brine My Thanksgiving Turkey?
In short, YES you should always brine your turkey. It makes a huge difference in taste and texture.
I have heard many arguments over the years that brining isn’t worth the time and effort. Or that is doesn’t really enhance the flavor of the bird. But after roasting well over 50 turkeys in my lifetime, I can firmly state, brining makes all the difference.
In fact, every time I try a difference method of prepping my turkey, I’m always disappointed. Always.
In my opinion, a simple brined turkey, without any extra seasoning, stuffing, or glamor is always the ultimate winner.
What Does Brining Do To Turkey?
Soaking poultry in brine does three things that improve the overall dining experience. Brining:
- Seasons the meat all the way through, not just on the surface, for the best possible flavor.
- It locks in moisture, plumps the poultry, and lightens the color of the meat, for the most tender juicy bite.
- The salt alters the skin quality, so it bakes to a crispy golden brown.
Pretty good results, don’t you think?
How Do You Make A Turkey Brine?
Brine in its simplest form is just water and salt. However, our Best Turkey Brine Recipe offers a little more flavor from sugar, herbs and spices.
You simply mix the salt with warm water so it dissolves into the water. Then add in any additional ingredients.
What’s The Easiest And Cleanest Way To Brine A Turkey?
Honestly, I find turkey brining to be a life-saver several days before Thanksgiving or Christmas. After all, refrigerator space is limited, so I want to move the turkey out for other items.
Therefore I always brine turkey in a cooler. I wash the cooler. Mix the brine in it. Then submerge the turkey in the brine and cover it with ice. It can stay in the cooler for several days, leaving more room in the fridge for pies and side dishes.
You can even dry the turkey in the cooler, resting on ice.
When I’m done with the cooler, I simply dump the brine in the garden, spray it with kitchen cleaner, and spray the cooler out with the hose. Simple.
How Long Should I Brine A Turkey Before Cooking?
This depends on the size of turkey, and how much salt you add to the brine.
The general rule is 1 cup of salt for each gallon of water. Then brine the turkey overnight.
However, I find if you add a bit more water you can brine the turkey longer for a better overall bird. I like to brine a large turkey for 3 days.
What Happens If You Brine A Turkey Too Long?
If a turkey is left is brine too long it will absorb too much salt. Therefore I usually make sure I add more water than traditionally recommended.
Does The Turkey Need Any Seasoning After Brining?
No additional seasoning is needed after brining! It’s perfectly seasoned from the skin down to the bone.
Can I Take The Turkey Straight Out Of The Brine And Put It In The Oven?
Technically, yes. However, for the best golden-brown crispy skin, you should allow the turkey to dry thoroughly before placing it in the oven.
Then butter or oil the skin to improve the texture even more.
How To Make The Best Turkey Brine Recipe Ever
- Mix – Pour a gallon of warm water in a clean cooler. Add the brown sugar, salt, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
- Dunk – Lower the turkey in the brine. Add additional water to make sure the brine covers the turkey entirely, so you don’t have to flip in.
- Soak – Determined brine-time based on the size of your turkey. For a turkey 15 pounds or under, brine for just 24 to 36 hours. For a turkey larger than 15 pounds, brine for up to 3 days.
- Dry – Before you roast the turkey, take it out of the brine water and place on a rack to dry. Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry if needed. You can place the roasting pan in the refrigerator if you want to give the bird a longer time to dry.
- Roast – Rub the turkey skin all over with butter. This helps create that perfect golden exterior. Roast the turkey at a low temperature for 15 minutes per pound.
Get The Full Best Turkey Brine Recipe Below
Best Turkey Brine Recipe
Place a gallon of warm water in a clean bucket or cooler. Add the brown sugar, salt, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
Carefully submerge the turkey in the brine. Add an additional 1/2 gallon of water to make sure the brine covers the turkey entirely. (Or more water!)
If using a bucket, cover the bucket with plastic and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days. If using a cooler, filled it with ice to keep the turkey cold for up to 3 days.
The brine time should be determined based on the size of turkey. For a turkey 15 pounds or under, brine for just 24 to 36 hours. For a turkey larger than 15 pounds, brine for up to 3 days. *If you want to brine a smaller turkey for a longer period of time, reduce the salt to 1/2-3/4 cup, so it is not overly seasoned.
Before roasting, take the turkey out of the brine water and place on a rack for at least a couple hours. Allow the turkey skin to dry thoroughly. Use paper towels to pat it dry if needed. You can place the roasting pan in the refrigerator if you want to give the bird longer to dry. (The dryer the skin, the better it browns. You can even dry it overnight in the fridge.)
- Once dry, rub the turkey skin thoroughly with butter. Sometimes I stuff the turkey with herbs, but this is not necessary.
Roast the turkey at 325° F for 15 minutes per pound. Roast uncovered for the first couple hours, then tent with foil the last hour to make sure the breast meat doesn’t overcook. When using a meet thermometer, the breast meat should be 165° F.
Allow the turkey for rest for at least 25 minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.
If you plan to brine a large turkey for more than 24-48 hours, use 2-3 gallons of water per 1 cup water, to make sure the turkey doesn't over-season.